Your Responsibility to Wear a Seat Belt

New Jersey takes seat belt laws seriously. It’s one of thirty states where you can get pulled over for not wearing a seat belt. In other states, you can get a ticket for not wearing a seat belt only if you were pulled over for something else first.

In the event of an accident, of course, the implications of wearing or not wearing a seat belt are far greater than simply being liable for a traffic ticket. There can be other legal and financial consequences as well.

North Brunswick police lieutenant Keith Buckley has been charged with vehicular homicide in a 2008 accident in which fellow North Brunswick police officer Christopher Zerby was killed. Buckley borrowed a Dodge Viper sports car his brother had rented and took Zerby for a ride. It was quite a ride: they smashed into a utility pole going an estimated 94 mph.

One of the defenses Buckley is using in his criminal case is that Zerby contributed to his own death by not wearing a seat belt. The courts have already ruled that Buckley can present this defense to the jury for consideration.

Not wearing a seat belt can have financial implications as well. New Jersey is one of 15 states that have rules whereby a plaintiff’s claim for damages can be reduced if he or she was not wearing a seat belt at the time of an accident. These rules – known as the “seat belt defense” – don’t claim that not wearing a seat belt caused the accident. There is still liability and responsibility for whoever caused the accident. However, if some of the injuries sustained in the crash were the result of not wearing a seat belt, the defendant may be able to successfully argue that they are not financially responsible for those injuries.

If you or a family member have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, whether or not you were wearing a seat belt, contact a New Jersey personal injury attorney at the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Hasson, P.C.